LULA BURKE, Assistant News Editor—”I now feel much better about our country’s future. We need to get out of the way and let these students take over,” a moderator at The Lisska Center’s election-themed “roundtable” event said. 

The online event hosted students in groups of 12 and encouraged them to engage in civil discourse on topics such as income inequality, police reform and health care. 

The students were requested to join the event to be part of a “pilot” dialogue before opening it up to the rest of campus. Aayush Nema ‘21 said he was compelled to accept the invitation given the current political sphere and inherent “realness” to the conversation. 

“We are in the midst of a global pandemic, recession, and the current state of affairs are going to be done away with, for better or worse,” he said. “So imagining a better world is more of a responsibility than just rhetoric.”

Similarly, Zoya Gheiser ‘23 was interested to see the variation in ideas that would come from such a diverse group of students, both ideologically and socially. 

“I am part of a few advocacy/political clubs, but often the dialogue in those spaces only represents one viewpoint,” she said. “It is important to be in conversation with people on all sides of the political spectrum.”

Stewart Moore ‘22 is the president of the College Republicans and decided to take part “because of a strong personal desire to restore the ability for opposing parties to communicate civilly and with empathy toward one another.” The three students all emphasized the importance of bridging political gaps. 

The groups were accompanied by two moderators, who facilitated discussion. Dr. Heather Pool said that she was impressed with the maturity with which the students handled the discussion. 

“I was impressed with the student’s thoughtfulness, honesty, willingness to think broadly about questions and their appreciation for complexity,” Dr. Pool said. 

Pool is on the working committee that designed the event, which chose topics that it thought “would generate good discussions, be relevant, and were timely, while leaving enough room for discussion without an assigned reading.” 

Nema said he was personally very interested in the discussion of taxes and universal basic income. He noted the ways in which his thoughts expanded by hearing differing points of view.

“At some point, a few of the students and I referred to the fact that the U.S could do well with a multi-party system… This evolved into a slightly different discussion about political reform, and I wish we talked more about the two-party vs. multi-party system, but I completely understand that talking about political reform has more immediate actionable items than reforming the democratic setup altogether, so maybe the divergence was good,” he said.

Moore compared the discussion on crossing lines of difference with the current political atmosphere. 

“The ability to rationalize oneself, empathize with the opposition, and learn from them even if your mind is unchanged is a skill that needs to be promoted more within the country,” he said. 

Nema, Gheisar and Moore all thought the discussion was extremely valuable to those involved. The three students said they would surely take part in future events. 

The next “roundtable” will be held in mid-October, though sign-ups have passed. For more information about future events, students can contact lisskacenter@denison.edu